Pomona College Magazine
Volume 41. No. 2.
Issue Home
Past Issues
Pomona College Home
·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·
Pomona College Magazine is published three times a year by Pomona College
550 N. College Ave, Claremont, CA 91711

Online Editor: Mark Kendall

For editorial matters:
Editor: Mark Wood
Phone: (909) 621-8158
Fax: (909) 621-8203

PCM editorial guidelines

Staff listing & contacts

Contact Alumni Records for changes of address, class notes, or notice of births or deaths.
Phone: (909) 621-8635
Fax: (909) 621-8535
Email: alumni@pomona.edu
·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·

Healing Wounds of Civil War
Inspirational Young Alumna/ Maria Luz Garcia '01

After earning her Pomona degree in Latin American Studies, Maria Luz Garcia '01 set off for Guatemala, where she wound up working with survivors of that nation's long civil war. Today, even while pursuing her doctoral degree, Garcia carries on her efforts in a small Guatemalan village, and her dedication led the Pomona College Alumni Association to honor her with the 2007 Inspirational Young Alumni Award.

The student selection committee determined that Garcia's work best exemplifies the quote on the College's Blaisdell Gates: "They only are loyal to this college who departing, bear their added riches in trust for mankind."

Garcia wrote her senior thesis about the Recovery of the Historical Memory Project (REHMI), the Catholic Church's account of civilian persecution during the 36-year-long Guatemalan Civil War, which ended in 1996. The report implicated the military in 90 percent of the Mayan civilian deaths.

Upon graduation, Garcia set off for Guatemala, ending up in the highlands village of Nebaj, where a group of Mayan women-mostly refugees who had escaped to the mountains during the civil war-had founded a small cooperative to sell their weavings. When she arrived, the women had just received a $2,000 grant to develop an agricultural project, and with Garcia's help, the women rented a plot of land, built a greenhouse and grew vegetables to sell at the local market. Garcia worked side by side with the women-many of whom had lost parents, husbands, siblings and children to the military persecution of the Mayans-and they began to share their life stories. Eventually, as she began to learn their language, she started recording their history.

 "What they really want is for people to hear their histories, to know what happened to them in the past ... and to know that the legacy of violence and poverty is something they're still dealing with today," says Garcia.

Garcia started a literacy project which has expanded to include other family and community members, received grants and assistance from other American linguistics professors (including her mother, Jule Gomez de Garcia '72) to document and preserve the language, and made numerous professional presentations which have earned her the respect of peers many years her senior.

In 2003, Garcia was awarded a Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship for Minorities, and she is pursuing a Ph.D. in linguistic anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. Throughout her graduate studies, Garcia has returned to Nebaj repeatedly and continues to work to record the stories of the survivors and document their struggles and achievements. One of her goals, she says, is "to make the researcher obsolete as the women learn to do the work of documenting their language and their lives themselves."

©Copyright 2007
by Pomona College
Top of Page Pomona College Magazine • 550 N. College Ave, Claremont, CA 91711 • Contact us for editorial matters